Sara Zamikoff – Owner of Emporium Boutique

[quote style=”boxed”]Once I’ve come up with an idea I make sure to do my research and make sure it’s a viable thing I’m looking at doing, and then I just go for it and take the chance. I have always been a go-getter, so I just put all my effort into the project, take the chance and just do it.[/quote]

Sara Zamikoff is the owner of emporium boutique in Coral Gables, Florida. Originally planning to open a tea and coffee shop, she spent several years researching and learning about the industry; all the while cultivating her passion for fashion. Although she had her sights set, she couldn’t ignore the encouragement from friends to use what they called her “knack for finding the truly different and unique.”

Over the years Sara had become known as the go-to person for friends and family who needed fashion advice, or help in finding the perfect accessory or gift. As she was putting together the plans for her shop, it seemed fitting to take the vision beyond coffee and tea. Excited about the endless possibilities a boutique had to offer, her dream expanded into emporium boutique. It was an important part of Sara’s vision to infuse emporium into Miami’s design community, and support local and independent designers. Miami’s vibrant artistic scene has laid the foundation for countless gifted designers and artisans, many of whose products you will find at emporium.

Sara Zamikoff found that people are really missing the interpersonal aspect of shopping and wanted to make that a staple for emporium. Since opening the doors to emporium in 2007, the boutique has become a thriving, award-winning local business.

What are you working on right now?

As a boutique owner it’s not always about fashion and beautiful clothing. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that makes the store run as smoothly as it does. Right now I am working on streamlining my numbers, putting together open-to-buy spreadsheets, and really looking at what’s selling vs. what isn’t, and from which vendors. I am also working on a collaboration with Foster Care Review, a wonderful non-profit organization that helps the courts monitor abused, abandoned and neglected foster children. It is a cause I am passionate about, so I coordinated with them on an event in the store that will give back 20% of the proceeds to their organization.

Where did the idea for emporium come from?

Originally I had planned to open a tea house. I have a background as a pastry chef, and have always loved cooking and baking. I kept playing around with the numbers and different concepts and it started to evolve into a gift store with the tea shop, and it just kept expanding and growing from there and finally became a full-fledged boutique. When I was in college, my goal then was to open up my own business. Originally thought it would be a café, because I was working in a café at the time and really loved it, that’s where I picked up my love for baking. I always knew I’d have my own business someday, and it’s been exciting to see it grow and evolve into what it is today.

What does your typical day look like?

I generally get to the store early and dive into emails and receiving orders and following up on any custom orders or special requests. I try and make time for accounting every day, as well as working on marketing, PR and social media outreach. I also look for new vendors and suppliers online and make sure the store is merchandized and clean. Then, of course, throughout all of this I am assisting customers. My days are pretty full!

How do you bring ideas to life?

Once I’ve come up with an idea I make sure to do my research and make sure it’s a viable thing I’m looking at doing, and then I just go for it and take the chance. I have always been a go-getter, so I just put all my effort into the project, take the chance and just do it.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I absolutely love mixing patterns. I think it’s really fashion forward but still very soft and feminine. Mixing unexpected combinations always makes an outfit that much more interesting and ensures that you won’t end up seeing anyone else in the same outfit.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Hands down the worst job I’ve ever had was when I was a dishwasher in a restaurant. It was tough, but I learned that it’s important to be willing to do any job given to you, that you shouldn’t be above doing anything. It really makes you appreciate it so much more when you’re able to grow past that point and not have to be the one doing the grunt work anymore, and it gives you a real appreciation and understanding of how hard it is so you don’t take those people for granted. In business, it’s important to have respect for everyone, no matter what their job function is.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would reach out to other entrepreneurs within my field to learn more about how they got to where they are today, and how they were able to weather the harder times financially. I would also have a stricter budget and stick to it.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Customer service. It’s really about getting to know your customers on a personal level and having that connection with them. That is really what allows a small business to stand apart from the other big box retailers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Before I opened emporium I worked on a space for a boutique that fell through. I had put money and time into it and was just devastated that it had fallen through. It took several months just to look everything over and make sure it was really what I wanted to be doing, and now that I was out the money would I be able to proceed forward. It was a calculated risk that you have to be willing to take, and having the support of close friends and family really helped me find the drive to push through and make it happen.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

In retail, securing return customers is a huge part of making your business a success. A program I have been working on implementing is a frequent shopper program. Customers are given the option to join the frequent shopper program, and their purchases are recorded for up to six visits. After their sixth visit, they get 10% of their total purchases as dollars to spend in the store. This creates an incentive for them to come back to emporium when they are looking to shop, because they know they are getting a return on their purchase.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I am passionate about children’s welfare, so if I could change one thing it would be to end children going hungry around the world. I think it’s important to do what you can personally to help make a change. Find an organization that you really connect with, spending time helping and giving back.

Tell us a secret.

I love eating desert for breakfast.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Social media sites are huge for the retail business. I would say that Facebook especially is an invaluable tool for my business because I use it to connect directly with my customers. I post photos of my merchandise and fashion related content daily to keep people engaged. I also rely on fashion blogs like Refinery29 and Fashion Etc. to keep me informed of the latest trends and industry news. I would also say that Pinterest has been a welcome addition to my social media strategy. It’s such a beautifully done site and it really works well for retail because it’s such a fashion-heavy site.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business by Ari Weinzweig has a very grassroots and relatable philosophy on running a business and he does it himself every day. So much of it is about being nice and being a good person and supporting your staff that way, which are ideals that I really value.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Purpose Fairy is a great one to follow. She has great quotes and articles about being positive and not giving up, and has such inspirational, very zen philosophies.

Also Annie Vasquez and Ginger Harris (@gingerharris) are two local fashion girls who really seem to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the Miami fashion scene.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I laugh at myself out loud every day. You have to be able to have a sense of humor and laugh at yourself.

Who is your hero?

My dad. He is the kindest, smartest, most level-headed person I know. He has truly taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

What are some exciting Fall trends?

I am so excited for all the fall merchandise to get in the store! I am seeing a lot of coated denim, side panel jeans, animal sweaters and lots and lots of the color burgundy – a huge trend for fall across clothing, accessories and makeup.

What do you enjoy most about being a boutique owner?

What I enjoy the most about my job is being able to teach women how to dress for their body type, and what really looks good on them. Helping women feel good about themselves and having that tool to take with them forever. The personal connections I make coupled with doing it through fashion, which I also love, is an added bonus.


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